A Tale of Two Toilets

Roadside rest areas are nice, but since when is it okay for them to be nicer than my house?  Check out this architectural wonder of a pissoir with its Craftsman details, custom tile work, automated faucets and flushers, and tasteful landscaping.  Seeing how California has a gazillion-dollar budget hole, isn’t this a bit much?

Oh, and did I mention that this elegant shite-chateau has a twin on the other side of the road?  Seriously: show me a public school anywhere in California that looks this good and I will buy you a golden fleece seat cover to cradle your deluded bum.

In my Air Force days I had the chance to park my cheeks on one of those notorious $10,000 toilet seats that caused such a big stink back in the 80s.  No, it was not gold-plated. The explanation was actually pretty simple: the aircraft on which it was installed was originally designed for short sorties with an all-male crew, so it only had a stand-up urinal. But then they changed the rules and went to a co-ed crew, so the head had to be redesigned for sit-down use. And with military aircraft, you can’t just go down to Home Depot and buy one off the rack. Every retrofit has to be engineered to the same standards as the plane itself, and go through a similar process of design review and testing before it’s accepted. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty good policy, even if it occasionally produces stupid results.

Not gold. Mil-spec. Gold would have been cheaper. But at least it was the kind of waste that made sense in a convoluted way. As opposed to something like this, which makes my eyebrows go all Andy-Rooney-like in righteous wrath.

I remember when Californians were a hardier bunch, unafraid to turn their own faucets and jiggle their own flush-handles.  I miss those WPA-era rest stops, elegant in their sturdy frontier simplicity, with amenities like unbreakable aluminum mirrors and gritty powdered soap.  They were one step above the vault toilets you see in public campgrounds, but nowhere near the quality of a good gas-station loo, back in the days when the private sector prided itself on offering sparkling-clean restrooms to the weary traveler. Come to think of it, those were also the days when California’s public schools were the envy of the nation, not slugging it out for last place with West Virginia. If you’re curious about what went wrong, and what happened to our priorities, take a drive down US 101 to the Camp Roberts Rest Area. Don’t forget to take a stack of $100 bills to wipe with.

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